CROCK-POT COCHINITA PIBIL

When I found out that January was National Slow-Cooking Month, I knew exactly what recipe I was going to adapt first for Crock-Pot cooking. I’ve always wanted to test my theory that cochinita pibil can be done in a slow cooker, so the fact that it was a nationally recognized month-long culinary holiday-of-sorts was the perfect chance to take on the challenge.

And, ahem… Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner, so if you’re planning a party with some Mexican food, this is an easy and delicious way to treat your guests to something new!

Yes, we’ve posted a recipe here before for cochinita, but let me tell you why this one is different. We’re using a different cut of meat (boneless country-style pork ribs), an easy spice mix made from scratch (no achiote paste in brick-form here, amigos), and as with most slow-cooker recipes, you can set it and forget it, making it relatively hassle-free compared to the traditional method of making cochinita. If you’re making it for guests, you can still serve it wrapped in warm banana leaves to impress them. Just check out our original recipe for cochinita pibil for directions on how to heat the banana leaves so they’re pliable.

And finally, we’re not going to serve our cochinita pibil as a taco like you might expect–we’re going to make a version of panuchos Yucatecos instead. In some places, they put the black beans inside the little tortillas and fry it before adding the meat, salsa and any garnishes on top, but we’re going to use a simpler method using small store-bought tostadas. After all, the point of a slow cooker is to make your life easier by letting you spend less time in the kitchen preparing food, so there’s no need to deal with the mess of stuffing and frying your tortillas. Plus, this recipe is a bit healthier because we’re leaving the frying out. If you can’t find small tostadas or picaditas at your grocery store, you can make your own by either heating corn tortillas in the oven until they’re dry and crispy, or you can get the same result by cooking them longer on your comal.

But before we move on to the recipe, let’s talk a little about what a slow cooker (or Crock-Pot) actually is so there’s no confusion because I often get asked if a slow cooker is the same as a pressure cooker. (The answer is no. In fact, they’re opposites.) A slow cooker is a counter-top electric device that you plug in and usually has a removable glazed ceramic or porcelain pot, surrounded by a heat-conducting housing. They typically have two settings: low or high, with the exception of some of the more expensive slow cookers that have more options for controlling the heat.

Some of the fancy slow cookers also have a built-in automatic timer to turn the heat off when the time runs out. The point of a slow cooker is to cook things with steady low, moist heat which makes it ideal for soups, stews and cooking meats that you want to be fork-tender, but without all the fuss of watching it constantly. The lid of the slow cooker typically has a small vent in order to let some of the steam escape and can be removed during the cooking process to stir the ingredients if needed.

A pressure cooker, by contrast, is designed to produce a similar result with fork-tender meats but within a much shorter amount of time and is a pot that gets heated on the stove. Pressure cookers have a lid that seals and locks to allow pressure to build and prevent steam from escaping. This causes the steam pressure to cook the food at a temperature above the boiling point of water and can reduce cooking time by up to 50 percent.

Pressure cookers also typically have a vent, spigot or valve system that regulates the pressure. While you can take the lid off of a slow cooker to stir the ingredients during the cooking process, you can’t open a pressure cooker mid-recipe without first allowing it to cool and disengage the lock system that protects the lid from flying off. You may recall we’ve used a pressure cooker here before for one of our favorite recipes with beans, frijoles charros. And we’ve also used a pressure cooker in the Tortilla Test Kitchen to make a batch of frijoles de la olla in about an hour’s time (and without soaking the beans overnight), which would normally take about 3 hours on the stove, requires the beans to be soaked in water overnight to soften them and constant attention and stirring.

So now that you know the difference, let’s get slow-cooking.

RECETA:

CROCK-POT COCHINITA PIBIL

Meat and marinade:

  • 1 1/2 pounds country-style boneless pork ribs
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 10 limes)
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 of a large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch slices

Spices:

  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground achiote
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tsp whole Mexican oregano

Salsa:

  • 1/2 of a large red onion, sliced into small strips
  • juice of 1 orange
  • juice of  2 limes
  • 1 roasted habanero, finely chopped

For panuchos:

  • 1 package of small tostadas or picaditas
  • 1 cup refried black beans

THE NIGHT BEFORE:

MARINATING THE MEAT

Start by squeezing the fresh lime juice and orange juice. Once you have the juice, put it in a medium to large glass bowl and add the crushed garlic.

Combine all the dry spices and mix well; then add vinegar and olive oil.  Stir to incorporate the liquids and add to the glass bowl with the citrus juices and garlic. Stir well and add the pork to the bowl, making sure it’s completely covered by the juice. Cover and allow it to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

MAKING THE SALSA

Slice 1/2 of a large red onion into small strips and mix it with the juice of 1 orange and 2 limes. Roast one habanero on your comal or in a skillet, remove the stem (and seeds if you want to reduce some of the heat), and finely chop. Add the habanero to the salsa. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight.

THE DAY OF:

Slice the remaining half onion into quarter-inch thick slices and place them on the bottom of the crock-pot. Remove the meat and marinade from the refrigerator and place the meat over the onions. Pour all the juice over the meat.

Place the lid on the crock-pot and cook on high for 5 hours (or on low for 8-9 hours).

You’ll know it’s finished cooking when you remove a piece of meat from the crock-pot and can shred it with a fork without much effort.  Shred all the pork. Place the meat in a bowl and add a little juice from the crock-pot to keep the meat moist.

Heat the tostadas in the oven at 200º F for a few minutes. Spread warm refried black beans on the tostadas. Add the shredded pork on top of the beans and spoon some of the habanero salsa and onions on top of the pork.

Yields about 3 1/2 cups of meat and juice.

  • Let us know how you like crock-pot cochinita or how else you like to use your slow cooker for making traditional Mexican foods!
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Comments

  1. says

    Oh… I just love that photo of the cochinitas – so colorful and appetizing!

    Thanks for such a lovely description on the difference between slow and fast cooking! They are different! But where they are similar is in the result – the pressure cooker needs a little less liquid and a little more reduction but you could get an 8 hour crock-pot roast in 30 minutes in the pressure cooker.

    BTW, you can open the pressure cooker FAST, to add ingredients, by running the rim of the top under cold water in the sink (without obstructing the valves) – only takes about 20 seconds!

    Ciao,

    L

    hip pressure cooking
    making pressure cookers hip again, one recipe at a time!

    • says

      Laura, I love love love my slow cooker and my pressure cooker and I couldn’t live without either one. I have a great video recipe coming up soon using a pressure cooker. I know you can open the pressure cooker fast by running the top rim under water but it’s a method I’ve never really cared for… maybe because I’m a little scared to do it! I have a friend who sticks her hot pressure cooker in the shower and turns on the shower until it cools, which I find so bizarre but she’s been doing it for years and has never had any issues or damaged her pot by doing it. I might have to just brave up and try your method next time I need to add an ingredient though! Thanks for stopping by! I look forward to checking out some of the recipes on your site. :)

  2. says

    you just made my day,you have no idea, I have been trying to find a receipe for ages for COCHINITA PIBIL, when i was a teenager, we stayed the whole summer at my aunts house (apt) in Mexico City, and this meal was one of those unforgetable meals that i have been tryong to reproduce for ever….And your theory as was mine for ages that you could do it in a crock pot is true, I am so excited to try this. The ingredients will be on next weeks grocery list. Meal planning makes my life so simple. and my slowcooker saves me time and energy. I shall have to share my receipe for tacos de desebrada.the meat is made in the slowcooker. and they come out divine.

    • says

      Vanessa, I can’t wait to hear how your crock-pot cochinita turns out! Please come back and leave a comment to let me know.

      And I’d love to test your recipe in the test kitchen. If you send me an email using the contact form on the ABOUT tab above under CONTACT ME, I’ll be sure to get back to you!

    • says

      Caro, I just know you’ll love this one! So easy and very tasty! I have to make more soon because it only lasted a few days in my house. My mom was the biggest fan – she was so impressed with this version after also having eaten my original version that gets cooked in the banana leaves. And truth be told, I think I actually like this version better because it’s less fuss overall and much easier cleanup.

  3. says

    This is making me drool – the idea of all those yummy smells blending as it marinates, and “the day of” .. None of these ingredients are very hard to find. I’ll buy them and set up the recipe immediately

  4. says

    Dios mio, I might just get brave and go ahead and try this one! We were just over our compadre’s house on Sunday and we had delish cochinita pibil and I just couldn’t get enough of it! Vamos a ver que pasa….

    • says

      Roxana, I can’t wait to hear how this turns out for you. I know you’ve been all about slow-cooking this year so I’m glad to give you another recipe to try! I love cochinita pibil, but my regular recipe can be somewhat of a hassle to make not because it’s difficult, but because there are a lot of steps and sometimes people tell me it’s also difficult to find banana leaves where they live. The slow-cooker version of this recipe, with all the spices from scratch, is so easy to make that it almost seems crazy to go through all the steps of making it wrapped in banana leaves in the oven. When I have the time to do it the traditional way, I do, but when I just need a quick fix of cochinita and I don’t have a lot of time, the slow-cooker method is perfect!

  5. alejandra says

    Hi! Im mexican and this is one of my favorite dishes. Ive never cooked it before though (yes i know that is so embarrasing!) Anyway, i will try this tomorrow in the slow cooker, so hopefully it all goes well!

  6. Laura S. says

    Can’t wait to try this recipe – what a great one to adapt to the slow cooker. As for Mexican recipes I already make in the slow cooker . . . hmm . . . I think the only one so far is caldo tlalpeno but I would like to try pozole and tinga . . .

    • says

      Laura, I promise you’ll love this. A bunch of my friends made it at their Super Bowl parties and everybody told me it was a huge hit! It’s one of my fave recipes to make in my slow-cooker. I’m working on a pozole recipe adapted for the slow cooker that I’ll hopefully be sharing soon :)

  7. Blanca says

    i cooked this, and it was reall good, my husband love it. mine was just kind of sour, but it was good.
    i am mexican and dont use my crock pot that much, i guess there are no ehough recepies for mexican food.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Habanero Small with orange skin and flesh, you’ll probably want to handle these peppers with gloves, and a little goes a long way. They’re usually sold fresh but can also be found dried. They’re considered hot to extreme heat. They are not the hottest chile that exists, though; they rank at only about one third of the heat of the ghost pepper (also known as bhut jolokia or naga jolokia) from India. My favorite way to use habaneros is to roast them on a comal or griddle and then use them in a salsa with roasted red tomatoes. Or, they also add some serious kick to the pickled red onion salsa to accompany cochinita pibil. […]

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